As I’ve touched upon in previous posts, the online advertising space has yet to see the development of a single, mutually agreed-upon currency along the same lines of what we have in television with the C3 rating. We might finally see such a currency emerging in the wake of Unilever’s just-announced agreement with Nielsen to use their Online Campaign Ratings for all of their online advertising buys in the U.S.
For those unfamiliar with Nielsen’s Online Campaign Ratings system, it officially launched back in August of 2010 in partnership with Facebook (as it relies heavily on data drawn from individuals’ Facebook profiles). Essentially, advertisers embed a Nielsen code in their ad and Facebook records when its users view the ad on its site or other sites. Thus, Facebook’s demographic data are being combined with Nielsen’s ad impression data to produce something on par with a traditional television rating (here’s a more detailed description).
As I talk about a bit in my 2003 book, Audience Economics, historically, the buy-in of a couple of major advertisers has been the key first step in establishing a new currency in the audience marketplace, so this Unilever announcement could prove quite significant.
However, it is important to remember that Nielsen’s biggest competitor, comScore, offers something similar, called Campaign Gross Rating Points. I recently interviewed an advertising industry executive who described the current situation in online audience currencies as an “arms race” between the two firms. Of cource, comScore is lacking Nielsen’s ability to offer one-stop shopping for both online and television audience currencies, which probably tilts the balance in favor of Nielsen emerging as the online currency.